House Extensions and Alterations

Why move when you can improve?

There are many good reasons to extend; to create more space, add value to your home or just because you love the area and want to stay. Many properties have untapped potential, and renovations can make a home more enjoyable to live in as well as adding to its market value.

Recent figures show that fewer houses are being bought and sold. Instead people are extending because it often makes financial sense. The saving in agents selling fees and stamp duty can make a large dent in the cost of an extension.

Although single or multi-storey house extensions and the alterations they involve typically mean quite a lot of upheaval, well-designed and properly managed, they can be the most cost-effective way to get the home you want. Involving an architect will give you the best chance of getting a house that suits your current and future needs.

Our work generally involves extensions to create superb family space with lots of light and direct connections to the garden. We incorporate plenty of storage, features like vaulted ceilings and even basements.

House Extensions And Alterations – What’s The Difference?

Extensions involve adding new floor area to the exterior of an existing property, whilst alterations involve re-arranging internal spaces, for example combining a kitchen and dining room into one open-plan family space. Alterations are often a consequence of extending a house to ensure that the house extension design works properly.

Altering Your House May Be Enough

The older the house the more likely it is to have been adapted to suit the needs of its various owners. Poor planning can result in spaces that are difficult to use for modern family living and have little if any connection with the garden and views. Corridors are often put up and rooms partitioned with little thought given to the overall plan and flow of the house or how these areas will be lit. It is also surprising how often the main entrance of the house is in the wrong place! Often our job is to tidy up mistakes made over many years taking a look at the whole house and needs of the occupiers current and future. It may be that we can help you achieve your objectives simply by reconfiguring your existing space.

See this video for more information on home extensions and alterations:


Planning Your House Extension and Alterations

What should you be considering when deciding how best to extend? These are some pointers that other clients have found useful:

    • What’s the right style to suit your home? Some houses have great character that needs to be respected, especially in conservation areas. Some homes would benefit from the kind of facelift that an extension could provide. What style do you like?
    • Think about what you need from a lifestyle point of view, rather than trying to design it yourself – that’s our area of expertise. What do you you want to use the extra room(s) for. Who will use them? Is a bigger kitchen what you want? An extra bedroom? A bigger, light-filled family area with doors onto the garden? More space for older children or elderly relatives?
    • Design for the long term. If you need extra family space, think about the future uses. We all know that children grow up frighteningly fast and your needs will change with that.
    • Think about the right amount to spend. You don’t  want to spend more than the house is worth, but at the same time you want a high quality environment that you will enjoy every day and that will hold its value when you do come to sell. Look at house values nearby and what it would cost you to move to another house that has already been extended. Your budget and the specific features of your plot will determine what makes sense to actually do

Why Use An Architect?

Architects specialise in designing spaces. If you go straight to a builder you miss out on a critical stage – the design. We can help create a home that’s right for you and that you’ll love living in. Good design helps you to invest your money wisely by helping you to put a lot of thought into your extension. In our experience, clients want simple, light, airy spaces; modern design that is warm and functional. Design is a form of problem solving is not the same as art. We balance your functional needs, aesthetics and cost to help you get what you want from your extension.

Involving an architect at the early stage helps you take a ‘helicopter view’ of the whole building and plot so that you are aware of all the possibilities, some of which may not seem obvious to you. If this ends up in a wish list that is more expensive than you can afford we will help you prioritise and plan the project so you get the house you want, even if it involves phasing the work over time. This is invariably a better way to come up with a successful design than focusing on a particular type of extension or alteration. Using an architect will also ensure that your extension is properly integrated into the planning of the existing house and its external elevations, which  is crucial if you are in a Conservation or other designated heritage area.

Do House Extensions and Alterations Add Value?

There is no guarantee that architect-designed extensions and alterations will add value to your property. However, in our experience, extensions generally do as they add floor space that will enhance the property’s future value. Indeed over the years we have helped clients significantly increase the capital value of their home and realise healthy profits on its sale. Key to this is great design, detailing and the quality of the work which make all the difference. For example, large carefully-placed windows and sliding doors that frame the views, clever lighting systems and double-height spaces are often considered by prospective buyers to be the ‘wow’ factors that are worth paying extra for. Offers can go even higher if the property also has energy saving solutions that reduce bills and sound insulation so that the whole family can be doing ‘their own thing’ without disturbing each other.

Conversely, house alterations do not always add value. Rearranging the rooms to a different configuration needs to make a really important change to justify the costs involved. Refitting a kitchen or bathroom may be important from a lifestyle point of view, but if you are replacing kitchens or bathrooms that are perfectly functional, but not to your taste, others may not see the same value.

Contemporary Alterations and Extensions

We have altered and extended many traditional, listed and modern buildings over the years using our knowledge of the planning process and our understanding of clients’ needs to create designs that are appropriate for modern living but respect the existing building’s scale, form and materials. Done well, the result is clean, timeless and very appealing.

For example, for a family in Sevenoaks, we connected the large main house with a garden annexe to create an indoor pool, added a double garage, doubled the size of the living room by adding a single storey modern extension, and removed a badly designed, cramped porch replacing it with a bigger, well designed canopy.

The main entrance is a common problem in older family houses. Front doors, which are often insignificant or in the wrong place,  lead to tight hallways ill-adapted to accommodate the number of children, visitors, animals typically needing to use them – let alone cater for online shopping deliveries.  We are currently adding to a double-fronted Victorian family house in Tenterden, Kent, an entrance porch to enlarge the hallway and make a grander entrance, rebuilding the existing roof to create two further bedrooms and shower room and putting in three dormers to add space and light.

Introducing large doors and windows to benefit from the garden views and give easy access the garden is another hallmark of jhd design. See our Extensions and Alterations Project Portfolio for details of these and other projects.

Planning Permission For House Extensions In Kent and Sussex

If your property has never been extended, is not listed and outside an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or Conservation Area, we may be able to help you achieve a surprising amount by exploiting your Permitted Development (PD) rights which allow you, subject to limits on size and location, to extend without planning permission. Depending on your specific circumstances, you may, for example, be able to:

  • Add a single-storey side extension
  • A two-storey rear extension
  • Add rear and side dormer windows to increase the floor area of a loft conversion
  • Build a home office, swimming pool, recreation room in your garden
  • Add a garage, carport or front porch

However PD restrictions are much more limited for buildings in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and for Listed Buildings and this is the case for many of the projects we look at in Kent and Sussex.

You will need to apply for planning permission if your PD rights have been removed, or you want a scheme that is larger than they will allow. Proposals that do not affect your neighbours’ light or privacy – such as single-storey extensions – are likely to be more straightforward but may not meet your needs. Do take advice before starting work on something that you think falls with your PD rights because the calculations involved can be complex.

The Reality Of Extending And Altering Your Home

Altering and extending a property whilst you are still living in it is a challenge that tests the most patient client and the best builder because the work needed will inevitably interfere with everyday life. Whenever and wherever possible, we programme the project to make the house extension watertight and secure before breaking through to the existing house and starting any alterations.

Major alterations will often force you to move out for a period of time if only to retain your own sanity. Moving out can also speed things up as it allows the builder to work unhindered by safety concerns and the routines and needs of those occupying the property.

House Extensions And Building Regulation Issues

Irrespective of whether you need planning permission, the vast majority of house extensions must meet the minimum current Building Regulations requirements. These Regulations cover 14 areas including structural materials, ventilation, energy efficiency and access. You will need to let your local authority know about the work you are planning either by issuing a building notice or by sending them a set of plans. It’s really important that you get an architect to draft these to ensure that all the detailed construction issues are covered. A Building Control Officer will visit at regular intervals to ensure you are complying with the Regulations.

Some smaller works such as carports, detached garages and porches are exempt from the Building Regulations approval process. Similarly, some of the Regulations may not apply to listed buildings or buildings in Conservation Areas if the work affects the historic fabric of the building.

JHD Projects